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March / April 2012

The Edwardian Era


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ne hundred years have passed since the RMS Titanic sank into the sea, changing the face of history forever.

I was fourteen when James Cameron‟s film came out and not permitted to see it, but nevertheless it spurred in me a fascination for all things pertaining to the White Star Line, and also in the Edwardian Era. So many fascinating individuals lived in the early part of the 20th century, going on to face the first World War and then the Great Depression. It was an era in which much changed, from fashion to ideas of morality and the eventual diminishing of the separation between social classes. Suffragists lobbied for the vote, hemlines grew shorter to accommodate women in the workforce, and men went away to war, to return (if they did) forever changed. Masters and servants alike left behind the past forever, and in a few short years everything changed. The Edwardian Era is known for some of its great novelists, for Rudyard Kipling, J.M. Barrie, H.G. Wells, Beatrix Potter, and P.G. Wodehouse. Many wonderful stories are set in this era, in books and on screen, as you will discover

as you peruse these pages. My choice to use this as our theme for April and May is in part to honor the lost passengers on board the Titanic, a tragedy which has now reached its 100th anniversary. Though most of us are familiar with the fictional love story of Jack and Rose, the real ship contained people even more remarkable than Cameron‟s inventions. The real Molly Brown was never known as “Molly” but went by “Maggie” or “Margaret.” She was a pistol of a Colorado woman who ran for public office before women could even vote! On her way to New York on the Carpathia after the disaster, she raised over $10,000 for a fund to help destitute passengers. The real Thomas Andrews was not only a perfectionist, but a hero. During the construction of Titanic in Belfast, a man became trapped in the rigging and it was Andrews who risked his life to climb up and cut him loose. Charles Lightoller went on to become a hero of the first World War, when his maritime experience

allowed him to save lives trapped behind enemy lines. Also on board was a man no movie has ever included: Reverend John Harper, who sacrificed his place on a lifeboat (as the sole provider for his child, he would have been allowed on) and used what little time he had left to try and persuade other passengers to accept Jesus before succumbing to the elements. His story was recounted years later by a young man who said that John Harper saved his life that night in the cold.

In these pages are many wonderful stories, but I hope as you read through them and build up a collection of “must-see” movies and miniseries, you will take a moment to reflect on the heroes that have come before us, many of whom quietly went to their death that moonless night so long ago in the bitterly cold North Atlantic. Let it serve to remind us that arrogance goes before disaster, and that our time here on earth is the most precious thing of all. ♥


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Redeeming Love Matthew & Mary Crawley

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Nearer To Thee Titanic‟s Classic Films

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Romance of the Past Somewhere in Time

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Miss Potter A Woman Ahead of Her Time

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Social Distinctions The World of Downton Abbey

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Always Searching As Time Goes By

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Oh, Lily The House of Mirth

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The Great War L.M. Montgomery

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Passion & Social Expectations A Room With a View

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It Takes a Higgins My Fair Lady

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Edith Crawley Ask Lydia

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Behind Neverland J.M. Barrie

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Our next issue is featured on the back, but if you want a jump start for our summer theme, it is Sci-Fi & Fantasy. Nab your topic today: femnista@charitysplace.com

Through a Lens Darkly James Cameron‟s Titanic

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A Modern Woman Sybil Crawley

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rom first impression to last, Mary Crawley equally attracts and frustrates us. She appears to be cold and withdrawn, uncertain of her own emotions and of what is expected of her, and utterly unworthy of the love of her cousin Matthew, whose charm and selflessness stand out in sharp contrast to her petty insecurities. Yet theirs is the romance that most captured our hearts as Downton Abbey unfolded, a “will they or won‟t they?” that came to a conclusion at last with a proposal in a snowy courtyard. Few understand Mary in a way that allows them to be tolerant of her faults. Her reputation of iciness is wellearned, both through her treatment of her sister Edith and in her behavior toward Sir Anthony Strallon. Mary is preoccupied with money, altogether too concerned with her reputation as the eldest sister (and therefore the one that should “marry well”), and all too willing to give in to the advances of a Turkish diplomat, a mistake that costs her in later years. Yet out of all the characters to pass through the halls of the great old country house Mary undergoes the biggest transformation… and it is, to a large degree, her love for

Matthew that works this miracle in her life. Her growth from a selfinfatuated young woman more interested in insulting others than having much compassion for them into someone willing to put another‟s happiness before her own is profound. Even though she still loves him, when another woman enters Matthew‟s life, Mary does not seek to plant doubts or thwart the match but offers Lavinia friendship when it is feared that Matthew may never walk again. Further evidence of the change in her comes with her kindness to Anna and Bates on their wedding night, in arranging for them to share a few precious hours together away from the others. While Matthew suffers through depression, Mary remains strong and becomes worthy of him as she proves that her love is ever true and unfailing even when there is no certainty that her affection will be reciprocated. Where once she sought to torment him, she tries to reassure him; where once she resented his inheritance, she defends it. It is not merely love for

Matthew that changes her, but Mary‟s realization that she has lost him because of her earlier behavior. He managed to love her in spite of her cruelty and arrogance but when it came to a choice between marrying for love or money, she hesitated. He, not surprisingly, rejected her in the aftermath. In the wake of that mistake, when she cries in the arms of Carson, her beloved butler and one of her few friends, Mary repents of all she has been, and makes a decision

to strive to be better; her behavior changes and in that she finds redemption. Repentance is not true if it does not include an altering of behavior, and hers is why we believe her as the war unfolds and much alters in the house. Whether or not the earlier Mary was the “true” Mary is uncertain. I think she was playing a role to prevent her sisters from seeing how many emotions she did have... resting just beneath the surface. Tempting as it may be to


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write Mary off as a brat, a conclusion supported by her behavior in early episodes, I believe it was a barrier to keep others from discerning how insecure and uncertain she is of how to behave in a situation that she has never confronted before. Mary does not do well caught off guard, which is why the Turk was able to seduce her. Confronted with a situation she never imagined and did not know how to react to with total propriety, she capitulated to curiosity rather than risk causing a scene. In her regret, and in her situation with Matthew, we see that she often does what is most “expected” of her, and is very traditional. Her logical personality does not offer the dramatic emotions others expect, so they consider her cold for not reacting as they do. Her lack of emotion (such as her concern over not mourning the death of her cousin Patrick) troubles her, but her unguarded moments in which she feels despair that she has lost what she wants most in all the world reveal that Mary does have a heart. It is just that, like Elinor from Sense and Sensibility, she does not wear it on her sleeve. Her introverted tendencies cause her to

is, but Matthew does just that. He loves her in spite of her pride, her arrogance, her pettiness, her meanness, and her sharp tongue. The best love stories have redemption in them and connect to our desire to be loved in spite of our many faults. Matthew accepts Mary for who she is, and his love for her transforms her into a better person. He is willing to marry her even knowing that she is “spoiled goods.” In his dedication to her, his acceptance of her mistakes and his willingness to forgive them, I am reminded of Someone who did much the same for me. He saw my sins and loved me anyway. None of my transgressions, pettiness or open insecurities ever intimidate Him, but instead He opens decisions based on logic moments. I understand her. His arms to me and says rather than emotion baffle I get that her early behavior “You are forgiven.” Like anyone who does not share is lashing out at others over Mary, knowing and loving Him in return has utterly their personality type. Mary her own frustrations and is like her grandmother in unhappiness, as an attempt transformed my life. That is why, out of all the the sense that practicality to maintain control when in ongoing events in the lives holds most of her emotions reality she feels very lost in check. It prompts her to and alone. It does not make of the characters residing at Downton, the love story become involved with Sir her unkindness any more between Mary and Matthew Richard, as he is a logical just but it does give me is my favorite. It is about solution to her problems: he empathy for how trapped more than just missed can protect her reputation, she is in a world that does opportunities and second and has financial stability. not understand her. Mary chances, but also about the Fortunately, others convince keeps people at a distance power of redeeming love. ♥ her that she cannot marry because she does not trust him, and Matthew offers her them to love her for who she process things internally rather than show emotion. It also makes her awkward in situations in which she does not know what to do. Should she marry penniless Matthew out of love? Her emotions say yes, but logic warns her that she needs financial stability… and so she hesitates. Characters that make

a reasonable alternative. As someone who also holds in her emotions, does not feel things as keenly as others think she should, makes most of her decisions based on logic rather than emotion, and knows the frustration of not being able to express herself at times, I have always been fond of Mary, even in her nastier


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or the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, I wanted to revisit its tragic history and some of the classic films inspired by it.

On the ill-fated liner were some of the richest and most privileged individuals in the world alongside the poorest, and in the face of the iceberg all were equalized. This is the strength of the 1953 Titanic with Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb. At its center is a strained relationship between Julia Sturges and her husband Richard. Julia is fleeing her society-obsessed husband with her two children for a humbler life in Michigan. Her getaway is foiled when Richard learns of this and follows her on board. Webb and Stanwyck are two of classic Hollywood‟s brightest stars and they shine as the estranged couple. The tension and genuine sense of heartbreak (most evident in her expressions) is palpable. The emotion and heartwrenching sense of lost opportunity between them makes the collision that much more wrenching, driving home the human toll of the tragedy. One of the biggest sticking points between them is Julia‟s view of his general uselessness outside of social obligations. The biggest blow to Richard

prior to the sinking isn‟t the dissolution of his marriage but the discovery that his beloved son, the “prize” who will carry on his name, is the product of an affair. Norman idolizes his father, and seeing Richard shut out the child is painful. But when it becomes clear that the ship is going down and many will not survive, Richard steps up in an extraordinary fashion, and his actions during the sinking make this film work. Watching him realize that family, not prestige, are the only things that truly matter in life is just one way in which it serves as a powerful reminder of the best things humanity is capable of in the worst of times. I also defy you not to shed a tear during Richard and Norman‟s final moments together. It took the anniversary to compel me to read Walter Lord‟s recounting of the great ship‟s final hours, A Night to Remember. His passion for the subject shines in this book‟s tightlyplotted recreation of the ship‟s final hours and the aftermath. Lord interviewed over sixty survivors, which

he incorporated into a blowby-blow recreation of the tragedy, from the iceberg collision to the Carpathia‟s rescue of less than a third of the passengers. His brisk style makes you feel as if you‟re watching events unfold, lending the gradually dawning realization of the enormity of the danger a depth and intensity that makes this a page-turner. A Night to Remember “is really about the last night of a small town,” and by extension the beginning of the end for a way of life.

While I‟ve always been susceptible to Titanic mystique I never thought about the socio-economic repercussions of the tragedy. From the massively wealthy to the poor, Lord‟s convincing argument is that Titanic was the “last stand of wealth and society in the center of public affection.” A way of life, the society of First Class, an air of civility and chivalry, all of that vanished on an icy night in April, rocking the world to its core and paving the way for the unsettled political


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and socially charged atmosphere of the 20th century. Lord presents a relatively unvarnished view of events but tells them in such a compelling manner that we never lose sight of the horror and human toll of the disaster. His book is not only a recount of the ship and her time but of the best and worst mankind is capable of, and the dangers of letting the legend eclipse the great human toll, and of what we can learn from the ordinary people on that voyage who found themselves called to do extraordinary things. Once I finished the book, I moved on to the film. The first thing that struck me was its air of authenticity. Unlike most projects from this era, A Night to Remember has a documentary-style feel with astonishing attention to detail. It stands the test of time and holds up brilliantly today, its understated grace lending it an unparalleled air of realism. It is almost a beat -for-beat, word-for-word visual realization of the book. By focusing on just the facts, it forgoes temptation to embellish events with fictionalized characters or occurrences. It‟s an unmatched visual documentation of the sinking because the writings of so many survivors were still at that time available, lending their invaluable perspective to Lord‟s book and the later film.

A Night to Remember does not spend a great deal of time establishing its core cast but instead briefly introduces major roles such as Chairman of the White Star Line J. Bruce Ismay, builder Thomas Andrews, and Captain Smith. Second Officer Herbert Lightoller

(Kenneth More) stands the closest to the role of a central star. He was the only senior officer to survive and his actions as documented in Lord‟s book and this film are nothing short of astounding. Lightoller‟s position on the ship is unique in that it is a window into both the crew

final look knowing this will be their last… just before the sinking when an elderly steward attempts to comfort a lost child with promises to find his mother, knowing they are about to plunge into icy waters… or when the band acknowledge in silence the futility of escape, instead regrouping and playing “Nearer My God to Thee.” The thing that strikes me most about delving into this material (and that this film drives home really well) is the sense of unreality; disconnect between the impact of the iceberg and the complacency of so many of the passengers. Even the lack of a response by the nearby Californian underscores the fact that a disaster of this magnitude, occurring with this ship, was completely unfathomable. Both the book and film of A Night to Remember reveal not only the disaster and the horrifying, needless loss of life, but the beginning of the end of an era, a devastating crack in mankind‟s confidence in themselves and their many accomplishments. May carefully crafted works like this serve to ever admirable, best and bravest remind us of our past and the best we are capable of tendencies in mankind as when the unthinkable well as painful moments of mob mentality and outright strikes, but perhaps most of all remind us in this very cowardice. My favorite uncertain world where true scenes evoke the genuine pathos of the moment: when security lies. In the truth of “Nearer My God to Thee,” a father sees his wife and may it be ever so. ♥ children into a lifeboat and he and his wife exchange a and passengers‟ experiences, since as an officer he could walk in both worlds, and was a critical player in the dispatching of the lifeboats. The performances are excellent, honest, and never give in to the temptation to idealize or vilify individuals. This film showcases both the


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ith the rush of our everyday lives continuing nonstop around us, it can be easy, especially as an audience, to view the distant past as a simpler, better time.

Most bygone eras can evoke a tendency to see them through rose-colored glasses and filmmakers take full advantage of that by setting many romances (usually of the tragic variety, alas) in historical time periods far removed from our own. The reasoning seems to be that since there were more obstacles to love in the past, when it happened it must have been real. There is a film that is not only set in the past but also weaves the notion of time itself into the love story. Somewhere in Time uses the idea of time as a tangible barrier to a fierce and tender romance. Based on a novel by Richard Matheson (who also wrote the screenplay) it introduces us to a college student and writer, Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve), on the triumphant opening night of his first play. Flush with success, he is startled when an elderly woman approaches him, puts a gold watch in his hand, and begs him to “Come back to me.” Eight years later, after major success writing plays in Chicago, Collier is feeling restless without knowing

why. Impulsively, he decides to get away and is compelled to stop and stay in the Grand Hotel near his college town. Exploring the storied hotel‟s Hall of History, he is inexplicably captivated by an old photograph of a beautiful young woman. He finds out she is Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour), a famous American stage actress, and the photo was taken in 1912. Intrigued, Collier researches her and is stunned when he sees another photo of McKenna in her later years… she was the one who gave him the watch and cryptic message. Now is when the idea of time fully emerges in the plot of the film. When he discovers that Elise passed away the night she gave him the watch and had a book about time travel (written by one of his old professors, no less), Collier realizes that, as impossible as it may seem, he and Elise somehow had something between them that he must experience by going to her in 1912. A short conversation with the man who wrote the book reveals to Collier what he must do: self-hypnosis. By being

surrounded by only objects from the time period he wishes to go to (including his own clothing) and repeating the details of where and when he wants to be, Collier can experience 1912. Though the process is difficult (in fact, it doesn‟t work the first time he tries) and he is warned that it will exhaust him, Collier finally accomplishes his goal. He opens his eyes to find himself physically in the past, on the date and in the

place he chose. Immediately, Collier goes looking for Elise and the love story that follows won‟t fail to affect most viewers. The extraordinary nature of his circumstances creates an urgency and intensity in him that Elise responds to from the beginning. Her manager W.F. Robinson (Christopher Plummer) is controlling and aggressive but that still doesn‟t prevent the feelings that explode between the pair. Conversations, a


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dance, and an afternoon spent together deepen their connection faster than would feel possible in a modern setting. Audiences might raise their eyebrows at a contemporary couple being so fervent and adamant about their feelings after only 2 days but when we watch romances set in eras of history, we believe it. At a performance of Elise‟s theater group the night after Collier‟s arrival in 1912, she spontaneously ad-libs a monologue that emphasizes what she and Collier feel. They are already in love. Robinson feels that a relationship between his protégé and Collier would damage Elise‟s career irreparably, so he provides concrete opposition to their union. He almost succeeds

in keeping the two apart but the physical obstacle of his actions are insurmountable. One of the more significant successes in the script is how time is shifted from an abstract concept to a tangible thing that asserts its own barriers in the path of romance. How easy will it be to overcome such trials on their way to happiness? (Without spoiling the end of the film, audiences should be warned that they will need tissues.) The viewer sees what a struggle it was for Collier to make it to 1912 in the first place, and he even says to Elise, “You have no idea what I‟ve been through to get here.” Time is subtly endowed with corporeal traits. It can be moved through and bent to the will of someone whose

will is strong enough, but it also has power of it‟s own. Small details add support to this aspect of the writing. Humorous commentary shows the audience that the suit Collier chooses to wear into the past is 10 or 15 years older than the style seen at his destination while he also gets to see the 5-year -old incarnation of Arthur, an elderly porter at the hotel he becomes friends with and who assists him in his quest for information before he travels to 1912. Also of note is the fact that Collier‟s first attempt to go into the past fails to work because the tape recorder he uses for his hypnosis is in sight. The love between Richard Collier and Elise McKenna in Somewhere in Time is crafted so that time itself

becomes a concrete antagonist in the story, one with unyielding strength. It is interesting that this film is set in the Edwardian era because that time seems to be a preferred setting for thwarted romances. Edith Wharton‟s novels, like The Age of Innocence, were published during this time, of course, while Titanic and Downton Abbey are set in the time period as well. Those films and historical settings also offer a distinct background for engaging romances on screen and that is perhaps because, compared to our modern world, the past feels more open to the possibility of true romance. ♥


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enee Zellweger is deep in character, and unrecognisable in costume with her natural, almost non-existent make-up, plump figure, and thick English accent.

She is in London playing the generally memorable role of a perennial spinster, but it is not Bridget Jones’ Diary— the film is Chris Noonan‟s heartfelt tale from 2006, Miss Potter. This exquisite film is a biopic depicting the life of Beatrix Potter early in the 20th Century as she makes the transition from a dependent spinster to a wildly successful children‟s author, illustrator and landowner. The charm of the story comes through her romance with a sweet and unassuming publisher, Norman Warne (played by Ewan McGregor), as well as

the interludes of her iconic characters, such as Peter Rabbit, who hops, skips and jumps across the screen in a blue overcoat with shiny brass buttons. But there is more to this film than animated animals and first love; it also provides an important social commentary of the Edwardian Era, from the perspective of a woman who defied all conventions. It begins with Beatrix Potter packing up a portfolio of her drawings to take them (along with her droll chaperone Miss Wiggin) to the offices of the Warne Brothers Publishing House. The senior Warne brothers think her proposal for a children‟s book a ridiculous waste of time but are in search of a project to keep their other brother Norman distracted and so begrudgingly acquiesce to publishing Beatrix‟s “little bunny book.” A single woman in that time with aspirations to become an author was distasteful enough, but Beatrix also had the highly

undesirable habit of having firm and unavertable opinions. She had very clear ideas about how Peter Rabbit should be published, including the look, colour, size and price, and would not be diverted from it. These character traits alone set her apart as a troublesome woman but to a modern audience, she was a pioneer, clearly ahead of her time.

Beatrix was born into the aristocracy, in a time of horse-drawn carriages, waist-coated footmen, long white gloves and petticoats. The only future expected of her was to marry a suitor of her parent‟s choosing and live an obedient life in a respectable home. Her mother often reiterated the fact that Beatrix should learn how to run a household, plan parties, and


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keep a full social calendar, but Beatrix had other ideas: “You see, we cannot stay at home all our lives, we must present ourselves to the world and look upon it as an adventure!” She was a rare specimen of her time, a woman unmarried and not unhappy about it, and nothing “like others that sat around gossiping and bursting into tears.” At least, she was until she met Norman. As the youngest son in a trade family, Norman had similar societal expectations thrust upon him. His place was also in the home as a “nurse maid” for his wheelchair-bound mother. He knew what it was like to live a life of stifled ambition and became Beatrix‟s kindred spirit, but class prejudices of the time dictated their union would not be seen as a “favourable” one. In the Edwardian era, an ideal marriage was not based on shared opinions, mutual regard or love but on the benefits of class, money, and connections. Women relied on men for their livelihood and unmarried women like Beatrix depended on ongoing financial support from their fathers. When her little books started hopping off the store shelves, Beatrix was given

something very rare for women at the time: financial independence. For the first time in her life, she could be the determiner of her own future, make her own decisions, and speak her mind without fear of retribution. One conversation in the film illustrates this well: “This book has changed me, Mr Warne.” “How‟s that?” “For one thing, its given me the chance to prove to my mother that an unmarried woman of 32 can do more than attend parties and smile at dull conversations.” Norman's sister Millie was also an instigator of social commentary in the film. Also a spinster, with no intentions of becoming one of those “stationary unfulfilled” women who marry, Millie provides Beatrix with friendship and a feminist perspective that encourages her to continue a solitary, independent life. As she puts it, “Men are bores. They are useful for only two thing in life: financial support and procreation.” But when Beatrix confides in Millie that Norman has proposed, her prior objections to marriage and the lives of married women

completely disappear. Her advice then becomes, “You have a chance to be loved, take it!” As with any good romance, the crux of the film becomes a love story. All happy thoughts of selfsufficiency or independence for women are promptly cast aside when a love interest comes along... they share smiling looks, steal a kiss in the rain, and exchange besotted letters, as every

young infatuation should. But make no mistake, this film is not a Hollywood-ized version of Beatrix Potter‟s life. The love story was a real one, based on documented fact. For Chris Noonan, it was a case of finding a gem in the reality that was better than anything he could have dreamed. ♥

Ewan McGregor was Renee‟s first choice to star beside her in the film. The costumes are all original pieces; nothing had to be reproduced. The film mixes up the release dates of Beatrix Potter‟s books; “The Tale of Jemima PuddleDuck” was actually published after “Two Bad Mice” and “TiggyWinkle” (1904, 1905) in 1908, instead of first as the film depicts. In real life, Norman proposed to Beatrix in a letter. Her parents never voiced an objection to the match, which they considered a good one. The house used for “Hilltop” (Beatrix‟s home) is actually really called “Yew Tree Farm.”


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ne of the things that has survived through the ages, and is still a major social issue in politics today, is the distinction between the “upper class” and those who are considered “middle class.”

The biggest part of the debate seems to be whether or not people who have some affluence should have an easier time of it in the current economy or be made to pay more taxes. These separations might have evolved and changed in the years since World War I but there was a time when life was not merely a matter of politics and the gap between wealth and those who would do well to become a footman in a grand house were much greater. Such a scenario is told in the beautiful, Emmy award-winning drama Downton Abbey. Before the crack of dawn, the servants who reside and work at the wealthy Crawley estate are up seeing that the fires are lit, the table is set (each place is measured to a precise distance apart) and breakfast is prepared… all long before the master and ladies of the house are blinking an eyelid. English screenwriter Julian Fellowes, once best known for writing the award -winning Gosford Park, probably didn‟t know what an incredible fan base he would inspire when writing

this, but it has proven to become the most popular series of our time, and for good reason. Even though at times it is predictable, its characters and scenarios are endearing while giving us a glimpse into a bygone era. There are characters we love and love to hate, and by the conclusion of season two we clambered for more. The opening segment of each episode might seem less like a piece of the story than a fount of information as it lists the people who give voice to their on-screen monikers but actually it reveals a glimpse of how precise the staff is about seeing that their employers keep the most efficient household and most importantly, take pride in the job they do. Downton Abbey, a stately country house, is owned by the aristocratic Crawley family, who come from a long line of “old family money,” having owned the manor for generations. When first we meet them, their wealth and home are threatened after the death of the sole heir on the Titanic. Many years earlier, Lord

Grantham married an American woman (much to the horror of his staid and proper mother) whose money helped the family save face; their twenty plus year union includes three children, all of whom are girls. As per the law, no female can inherit the title that comes with the estate, but that doesn‟t stop Lady Grantham from forging a tentative alliance with her mother-in-law to see that her eldest daughter Mary inherits the money instead of the distant relation they

discover is next in line. The heir that everyone sees as an interloper turns out to be a young, idealistic, working attorney named Matthew. Before long, the family adjusts to his presence… and a match is even hoped for between him and the opinionated, spitfire Mary. Much heartbreak and happiness ensues over the course of the five years we have been invited into the home of this family, and what a journey it has been. The writing beautifully blends the two diverse


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worlds of the below stairs characters and the upperclass who employ them. I remember my first time through Downton Abbey being surprised by just how much time was spent on the “below stairs” characters. It wasn‟t an unpleasant surprise, however. As a viewer I was just as captured by the lives of the servants as I was by the grandeur of the nobility. Their lives are just as meaningful and interesting as those of the Crawley���s. The amusing antics of Daisy, the kitchen maid are priceless, the arrival of newcomer Mr. Bates unleashes tempers, stalwart butler Carson rules with a firm but fair hand, and the housekeeper Mrs. Hughes is nothing if not kind-hearted. We are pulled into each and every one of these characters‟ lives and its best surprise is that out of the ten-plus main characters there is only one or two to genuinely detest. Starting with the upstairs I think the character I first grew to really love was Lord Grantham. It was something that completely took me off guard since usually it isn‟t the master who endears himself but the lady of the house. Mary is a bit of a brat in nearly every scene she appears in, but still, I enjoy her and have found there is more to her than first impressions would suggest. The youngest, the spirited suffragette Sybil, is a doll and Edith is the “forgotten”

daughter who makes a grievous error in judgment aimed at wounding her eldest sister that backfires on the entire family. Then there is the matriarch, the Countess of Grantham. Played by Maggie Smith, I

don‟t think there is one fan who hasn‟t found her zingy one-liners absolute spot-on perfection. A very unusual “granny,” she is perhaps the most-loved character of all. Meeting all of the people who share a mutual respect for their employers is a joy

to see. The Crawley family in return gives their staff a complimentary amount of respect and help each of them in whatever way they are able to do so (even Mary). That is something paramount about the series;

out of the year, they become so much more than mere characters written on the pages of a screenplay—they are dear friends that we want to invite into our living rooms and share a cup of tea with. Their way of life may be extinct but that does not mean “progress” has made the world a better place. Politics are what “rules” the major part of our country‟s social scene and it isn‟t a happy medium that can be easily overlooked. Similarly, arrogance may be a vice that we all struggle with, but when I watch this series, I get the feeling that the Crawley‟s aren‟t a “typical” British family with a stiff upper lip—they have deep empathy for family and their servants alike. The crowning glory of this production is not in its bid to engage in gimmicks that are unattractive but rather the tenderness of a mother‟s pride, a daughter fighting for the lives of men who are ready to give up, or the beauty of a true love finally realized. Fellowes truly does let the characters speak for themselves, in their actions in as much as their unique troubles. Entertainment or not, at the the mutual esteem these heart of Downton Abbey, individuals have for each there is much to be found other is untouched by that leaves us breathless— anything else I have seen, and it is in those moments and it makes the characters that we are allowed a real whether they are servants or glimpse into a world that well-off, easily respected. may be gone to us but These people may just be shouldn‟t be forgotten. ♥ fictitious but for two months


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opes, dreams, longings and aspirations are all wonderful things to have.


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In fact, they are good and right and necessary, for they give us a road map, of sorts, to the places we long to go in life. They spur us onward and upward and keep us from being complacent and settling for the status-quo. Yet sometimes, as can be seen in the 1938 film The Sisters, dreams can be the things which threaten to rob us of what we want the most. Sometimes, the dream of bigger and better can keep one from contentment and happiness in the here and now. Sometimes, as we will see, wanting something else instead of what we have, may very well cause us to lose all we hold dear. The Sisters, which stars the very dashing Errol Flynn and the alwayssensational Bette Davis, begins in Silver Bow, Montana, in the year 1904. The nation has just reelected Theodore Roosevelt to the presidency, and the Elliott family is among those who are enjoying a lavish election-eve ball. The three Elliott daughters— Louise (Bette Davis), Helen, (Anita Louise), and Grace (Jane Bryan)—are all of marriageable age, and it would appear that Louise, who is involved with the banker‟s son, will be the

first of the sisters to tie the knot. However, since said man (Tom) hasn‟t popped the question yet, Louise is all eyes when the father of a friend makes his entrance, accompanied by a handsome stranger (Errol Flynn) who is in town on business. As Louise is dancing with another man, the goodlooking stranger (who is as attracted to Louise as she is to him) cuts in. Introducing himself as Frank Medlin, a newspaperman from San Francisco, he proceeds to sweep the lovely Miss Elliott off her feet. For the remainder of the evening, as the happy couple talks and laughs together, no one else even exists; by the time they part company several hours later, Frank has agreed to stay on for a bit in Montana, provided Louise promises to see him every evening, which, of course, she does. Telling Louise that he is trying to write a novel but isn‟t really getting anywhere with it, Frank admits that he has a bit of wanderlust in him. But knowing that doesn‟t change Louise‟s feelings for Frank; she realizes he is restless and irresponsible and not as ambitious as she and her sisters were brought up to

expect, but still she loves him and upon his asking, elopes with him. Living in San Francisco, where Frank is a sports writer, Louise often finds herself alone due to the irregular hours her husband keeps. Though she tries to encourage Frank to get to work on his novel, he just can‟t seem to get his act together long enough to be successful. In due time, telling Louise that he‟s the kind of husband who makes people feel sorry for his wife, Frank starts to drink heavily; upset because he knows Louise‟s sisters, who have both recently gotten married to financially stable men, have everything, he begins to indulge in selfpity. Though he wants to amount to something… though he longs to be the strong one in their marriage… though he loves his dear wife and yearns to be worthy of her love, in the end, he desires freedom and the excitement around the next corner even more. Therefore, when he hears a group of men talking about the wonders of world travel, he is absolutely certain he has finally discovered the life which will bring his dreams to fruition; so writing a short note to Louise in April 1906, Frank

boards a ship and sets sail for the China seas. While Frank‟s ship is sailing away, taking him to that place where he will finally be happy, an earthquake of monumental proportions blasts San Francisco and the wife he left behind. Buildings tumble to the ground… flames erupt heavenward… all the world is chaos. Will Louise survive the devastating destruction of that day? In his wandering will Frank find what he is looking for? Will he ever capture the elusive dream? Or has he, by his inability to appreciate the life he had, put his dreams forever out of reach? Each of those questions will be answered by the end of this enjoyable, interesting well-acted film. Each of us at some point in our life will find we are kindred spirits with Frank. The hopes and dreams we carry in our hearts call to us loudly, so loudly that they are all we can hear. The longing for better… or more… or bigger… or better… or more exciting consumes us, and if we‟re not careful, it can rob us of the good things we already have. While we dream and plan, may we, unlike Frank Medlin, also be happy in the here and now. ♥


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ily Bart, the heroine of Edith Wharton‟s The House of Mirth, has a way of driving readers and viewers crazy. Whenever the book or its 2000 movie adaptation (directed by Terence Davies, starring Gillian Anderson) comes up in conversation, I tend to find myself almost the sole defender of its hapless heroine. People complain that Lily blunders from crisis to crisis with no sense of selfpreservation—sometimes, apparently, with no sense at all. Blessed with assets that should make her a success among the upper crust of the late 19th-century New York (beauty, charm, innate elegance, and just enough money and connections to establish herself among the elite) she seems determined to throw it all away with both hands. As Jonathan Franzen wrote in the New Yorker, “Again and again, at the crucial moment, Lily blows up her opportunities to trade her beauty for financial security, or at least for a chance at happiness.” * All this is perfectly true. Nevertheless, I love Lily. I can‟t help it. I‟ve loved her since the first time I read her foolish, tragic story.

Few novelists have been better than Edith Wharton at highlighting both the good and bad in her society‟s system of values. And few heroines have better embodied both the good and bad than Lily Bart. She is bound by the rules of society from the beginning, when she considers marriage to impoverished lawyer Lawrence Selden impossible, though she is fonder of him than of any other man. “You can‟t possibly think I want to marry you,” she tells him in a frank, even friendly, way. “You know I am horribly poor—and very expensive. I must have a great deal of money.” So she‟s striving to catch a rich man instead. But at the crucial moment in that negotiation, Lily cannot bring herself to close the deal. And here‟s where we‟re first faced with the great paradox of Lily‟s character, and of our reaction to her. Jonathan Franzen puts it this way: “When Lily, by taking a long romantic walk with Selden, is ruining her chance to marry the

extremely wealthy but comically boring and prudish Percy Gryce, with whom she would have the bleakest of relationships, you may find yourself wanting to shout at her, „You idiot! Don‟t do it! Get back to the house and seal the deal with Gryce!‟” It‟s like that all through the story, as Lily is driven by two conflicting forces: the desire for security and comfort and her own deepseated integrity. This is why

people react so strongly to her. We can easily be drawn to root for the good deeds of a hero; and, alas for human nature, we can often just as easily be drawn to cheer on a villain, if the writer makes them appealing enough. But watching in despair as the heroine‟s better nature keeps asserting itself at the last minute, and hoping desperately that maybe, just this once, she‟ll compromise her principles—that‟s what Lily Bart does to us.


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The reason for this goes back to what I said earlier, about how well Wharton draws both the virtues and the flaws of that longvanished society. Shallow, false, and unfair as it could be, there were things in that society truly worth having, and these are the things that Lily wants so much. She has a genuine “artistic intelligence” and loves everything beautiful and luxurious, but realizes all too well only the rich can have these things. When she hears of Percy Gryce‟s engagement to the “dull and dumpy” Evie Van Osburgh, she wonders impatiently, “Why should this clumsy girl be put in possession of powers she would never know how to use?” Beyond that, Lily was never taught to take care of herself and seems utterly incapable of learning it now. Here again we see the restrictions of her society at work in her, a society in which certain things, like the ability of a woman to snag a man who will provide for her, are taken for granted. Her blunders in that department undermine

time—a tone that‟s half horror, half exasperation. In many films it would be over the top but here it fits perfectly. In a word, it‟s just so… Lily. But what Selden comes to understand, as the story draws to its tragic close, is that Lily has achieved her own kind of triumph—that, as Wharton writes, “she had saved herself whole from the seeming ruin of her life.” Underneath all the warped values of her society, underneath her own petty surface standards and ideals, she has held onto something good and real. Her moral sense, guided by her growing feelings for Selden—“I needed the help of your belief in me,” she tells him before leaving him for the last time—has transcended her circumstances. The helpless, self-centered girl, with very little aid or understanding from those around her, has turned into a mature woman and a true heroine. Honestly, what‟s not to love? ♥

her social standing to the point where supposed friends, such as the backstabbing Bertha Dorset, turn against her to boost their own status. At a critical moment, Lily turns to Selden‟s cousin Gerty, a social worker, for friendship and support. But she is no more capable of living

Throughout her increasingly grim story, Lily has had one ace up her sleeve: she has come into possession of letters written by Bertha Dorset to Selden proving they had once had an affair. She could use them to blackmail Bertha and make enough money to save herself from ruin.

Gerty‟s rough, independent life than a tone-deaf person would be of conducting a symphony. Given her way of clinging to an old-fashioned system even as it mercilessly beats her down, and her inability to free herself, it‟s very understandable that Lily frustrates people. There‟s a moment in the 2000 film that encapsulates that frustration perfectly.

So, of course, at the climax of the story, Lily burns the letters. In the novel Selden never learns what she has done. In the movie, he does find out, leading to the moment I just mentioned. On discovering the charred remains of Lily‟s last hope in his fireplace, Selden (played by Eric Stoltz) shouts, “Oh, Lily!” in a tone that makes me want to laugh and cry at the same * Feb. 13/20, 2012


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hen readers think of L.M. Montgomery they are immediately reminded of the sunny and spirited Anne Shirley... A feisty, quick-tempered redhead who embodies hope and optimism. Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote extensively of imaginative heroines who quelled tempestuous circumstances with spirit and sass: from the irrepressible Emily Byrd Starr to the romantic Valancy Stirling. Unfortunately, her life was far from the idyllic world she painted with her purple prose. Both Montgomery and her husband Ewan Macdonald suffered from bouts of depression and anxiety: Ewan, certain he was doomed to an eternity condemned in hellfire despite his spiritual rigor as a Presbyterian clergyman, and Montgomery from battles with her publishers over rights, pressures from familial obligations to relatives all too aware of her social and financial success as an author, and plagued by insecurities regarding her immediate family, her husband‟s mental condition, and the failure of Canadian literary criticism to recognize her as anything more than a writer of

juvenile fiction. When WWI hit Canada‟s home front in 1914, Montgomery did more than write of it as an avid journalist, she allowed the darkness to seep into her usually light fiction as she penned Rilla of Ingleside: one of the most famous tomes representative of the home front experience of the First World War and one of the first fictionalized accounts of the conflict. L.M. Montgomery was already a well-established author in the early months of 1914, having put Canada on the literary map of the world. Though living in Ontario, she continued to write of Prince Edward Island and would do so for at least another decade when she would write her first books set either entirely or somewhat away from the beloved isle of her formative years. She counterbalanced her life as a rural minister‟s wife and mother with her presence on the world stage. Though portentous clouds threatened to mar her silver lining, her fiction was a much-needed escape. The year 1914 was couched in

tragedy from the start when her son Hugh died soon after birth: an emotionally tumultuous experience she would fictionalize when Anne and Gilbert lose their young daughter in Anne’s House of Dreams. In April, Maud‟s depression was echoed on the world scene as she saw her beloved country join a world-wide conflict. She writes, on April 5, 1914: “England has declared war on Germany… it must be a horrible

dream.” Maud tells her journal that it was foreshadowed to her by Earl Grey four years previously: “Civilization stands aghast at the horror that is coming upon it.” Tied to the Commonwealth, Canadian forces were sent to aid the war effort at an alarming rate and like so many citizens, mothers, sons and relatives Montgomery watched the papers with feverish interest terrified from hundreds upon


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hundreds of miles away. She speaks of meeting her beloved cousin Frede, a true “kindred spirit” on the same day as the sinking of the Lusitania and goes on to express her devastation at the impending doom surrounding the world she knew: “… I dreaded the Spring for what the War news might bring […] the fearful slaughter of our Canadian soldiers who saved the situation at an awful cost.” Montgomery continued to journal, in horror, the major battles which thrust Canadian soldiers to the front: from the Somme, through Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele: the resulting casualties nearly emptying communities of all of their young working men. At the end of 1918, as the war drew to a close, Maud had just finished writing Rainbow Valley: a sunshiny and somewhat ironic precursor to Rilla of Ingleside: a novel devoted to reflect the tumultuous experience of the Great War in Canada and on the warfront. Here, she drives the tragedy of the war close to our hearts when Anne‟s poetic and imaginatively romantic son Walter is killed in action at Courcelette: a week-long battle in France in

September 1916. While the eldest son Jem, returns to the homestead, the lives of Anne and Gilbert and their family are forever changed by this sacrifice of the son who closely resembles Anne in nature and personality. This is especially telling in the work of an author who used fiction to block out the negativity of life through the

happy circumstances of her heroes and heroines. When Walter dies, the rift between Montgomery‟s dark reality and her light fiction is momentarily blurred. She writes of Anne: “She belongs to the green, untroubled pastures and still waters of the world before the war.” Montgomery felt deeply and lived vicariously through her heroes and heroines. It is emphatic that she who used books to scrape happiness and a keen sense of

keep the Canadian focus of Rilla of Ingleside: “I wrote of Canada at War, not the U.S.” This is not to slight the universality of the experience; rather to assert that the book reflects her own dashed hopes and cultivated despair during the four years of Canada‟s overseas involvement. This argument also speaks to the close personal experience threaded throughout the novel, her thoughts and terrors and her empathy as a mother of sons. Unlike many authors we study and love, Montgomery has left us a telling document recounting the grand and small happenings in her life. Maud was an avid diarist and scrap-booker. Although she often would edit and re-edit the pages of her journal, they continue to offer a telling insight into her daily fed for four years on fears world. Fortunately, they also and horrors” Montgomery act as a primary document pens when the terror has of some of Canada‟s most finally ceased. Canadians integral years. While the often cite the Great War as having a significant impact Victorian Era she read about, wrote about and on National identity and Montgomery, as an emblem loved offered the solace of of Canada‟s literary heritage imagination, the Edwardian Era thrust Maud and the and one of the country‟s greatest cultural icons, does entire world into a black cloud: a precursor to the much in representing the continued inner turmoil, years on the home front depression and anxiety she during the four years of would suffer until her death conflict. Interestingly, she in 1942. ♥ fought her publishers to nostalgia would infiltrate a perfect world with the setting of war, thus making Rilla of Ingleside an even more important work. “I am sure no one could feel more profoundly thankful that the war is over than I… I am sure that no one, except the mothers and wives, could have felt it more keenly […] after being


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he wanted something big and she believed that it would have to come to her on the windswept platform of an electric tram.”

The Edwardian era was a period of British history defined by a particularly distinct culture, a set of values and code of behaviour amid rapid modernization in the early twentieth century. People were expected to behave in a way that left little room to act on their feelings without thinking of whether they would damage their reputation to society in the process. This struggle between social expectations and the yearnings of the individual was seen in E.M. Forster‟s novel A Room with a View through its leading lady, Lucy Honeychurch. Lucy came to Italy with her chaperon and cousin, Charlotte Bartlett, looking for something different from her monotonous life back in England. Upon arriving in Florence, she found herself surrounded by elements akin to home: English-style hotels housed by English tourists who brought with them their particular mannerisms, opinions and biases. Miss Bartlett also served as a

symbol and reminder of home for Lucy with the way she shielded Lucy from unrespectable behaviour and from some of the disappointing conditions around them. Lucy‟s treatment and exasperation of Charlotte over the course of the trip was in a way a response to the constant supervision and coddling she felt. There were brief moments where Lucy rebelled against these expectations of “niceness” and started acting according to what she felt and what she wanted, such as her willingness to go out and explore parts of Florence alone. She often reflected about how nothing ever happens to her and about how she wanted to “do something of which her well-wishers would disapprove of,” something out of the ordinary, not dictated by what was considered to be acceptable by society‟s standards. But such a wish is easier said than done: Lucy‟s upbringing in such an obstinate society often prevented her from truly

opening her mind to new possibilities. This was seen in instances such as when Miss Lavish insisted that she leave her travel guide at the hotel and got them both lost in the city on their way to one of the major basilicas, leaving Lucy feeling more irritated than adventurous and liberated. The presence of the Emersons, a father and son duo also travelling in Italy, in the hotel accentuated Lucy‟s personal struggle between social expectations and her desire to live and

act on her own terms. The Emersons, particularly the father, were regarded as illbred by many of the other British tourists because their behaviour lacked the proper social graces, such talking out of turn and insisting on having their way without encouragement or permission. Despite her feelings of awkwardness towards them, Lucy was nonetheless drawn in by their sincerity and straightforwardness. She developed a curious


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connection with Mr. Emerson‟s son George through a volatile incident they both witnessed in a piazza. Like Lucy, George was a young person trying to understand the world around him, so much so that his behaviour confused many people, including his father. Although she was also confused about George, she was not distraught when they kissed out in the Tuscan countryside during a group excursion. However, the kiss was inappropriate enough for Charlotte to step in and cover up the entire episode through a stern conversation with George, a solemn promise that the entire incident would never be mentioned again, and a hasty exit out of Florence. The incident amplified Lucy‟s dissatisfaction with the course of her life, which carried into the second part of the novel. In England, Lucy agreed to marry Cecil Vyse, an acquaintance she spent time with in Rome who was described as “medieval” and out of touch with natural human emotion and sympathy. Over the course of their engagement it was clear that Cecil did not truly

understand Lucy, placing her on a pedestal in which he saw her as an aesthetic wonder and an epitome of female virtue. He dismissed the notion that Lucy had her own flaws, passions and expectations. Over the course of her engagement to Cecil, she struggled to play the role of the polite fiancée, trying to like the same interests as Cecil and

they settled after their trip in her neighbourhood. She still found herself confused and nervous around George, who was no longer sullen as before but was instead rejuvenated and focused, striking up a friendship with her brother Freddie. George‟s passionate declaration of love for Lucy prompted her to break off her engagement

without fearing what other people would think of her and her actions. A Room with a View thus followed Lucy‟s journey from a life defined by the expectations of a rigid society towards a life of emotional freedom and a sense of self. The confusion and irritation Lucy often felt was a result of uncertainty between her own yearnings in life and what other people expected from her. Therefore, Lucy‟s decision to follow her feelings with courage and resolution over complying with society‟s demands for propriety and “niceness” at all times was a fulfillment of her desire to do something for herself and to do socialising like him but in with Cecil, recognising the something in her life. Lucy the process became further passionless and restricting and George‟s decision to confined in that particular reality of their relationship. elope at the end of the novel role; her frustration can But rather than facing her disappointed a number of seen by her occasional feelings about George, she people because Lucy‟s outbursts of anger and decided to join another family and acquaintances irritation. Lucy also ignored tour, this time to Greece, believed their actions to be signs that she and Cecil just to get away from all of improper and expected were unsuited for each the complications in her life more from them. But this other because she wanted to without starting up did not matter to them believe that her life would rumours that could damage because in the end they— be more exciting once she her reputation. It took especially Lucy—found was married. another introspective happiness and Lucy‟s predicament came conversation with Mr. contentedness and were to a resolution with help Emerson to realise the true to themselves. ♥ from the Emersons, who depth of her feelings for reappeared in her life when George and to act on them


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very single man, woman, and child has dreams.

From the girl who imagines her hairbrush to be a microphone to the boy who pretends the little league ballpark is actually Fenway, we all hope for the day when we can make something better of ourselves. It is only as we get older do we realize that dreams and reality are two vastly different entities. We‟re content to put the dreams of owning a Fortune 500 company on hold for the sake of earning the essential paycheck. We are content to write blog posts instead of the New York Times Bestseller we dream of. Suffice to say, we have become cynical and jaded. The world isn‟t ours for the taking as we might want to believe. Just don‟t try telling that to someone who truly wants to make something of themselves. In My Fair Lady, Eliza Doolittle is a girl with a dream. Selling flowers on the corner of London‟s streets isn‟t enough of a life for her. She dreams of being “a lady in a flower shop.” She knows it will take some work to get there—indeed, Eliza doesn‟t talk like a lady or even have the space to set

up a shop. Still, that does not stop her from treading through the mud, earning sixpence, night after night. Even if she never does gain the shop she desires, Eliza can at least say she did her best. She didn‟t just sit in the fog and rain, unwilling to try because circumstances would never get better. We never know how daily events can alter our life‟s story. God takes ordinary situations, ordinary people, and turns them into something extraordinary. Who can forget the whole exchange at the beginning of either Pygmalion or My Fair Lady? You know, when Eliza is doing what she normally does and there is a man named Henry Higgins notating every word she is saying—in a cocky boast, he says he could train anyone in six months to become like a duchess. He knows from what region the speaker hails without any previous knowledge of the person‟s life history! Knowing the character of Henry Higgins, he probably thought nothing of his boasts (they were truly second nature) yet it was the catalyst Eliza

needed. She went to 27A Wimpole Street, “washing her hands and face before she came, she did,” willing to pay for English lessons. Henry Higgins is not a man easy to get along with, though oftentimes the people that help shape us and mold us never are. Henry had a strange method for teaching Eliza to talk. Enunciating vowels over and over again does not seem to make much sense nor does putting your tongue on the back of your bottom teeth as you say “cup” clarify anything. Putting marbles in your

mouth, well that is just preposterous! To Eliza, it had to have been difficult to see how these exercises would benefit her. But they did; “The Rain in Spain Stays Mainly in the Plain” was never spoken as beautifully as when Eliza Doolittle uttered that phrase for the first time. Professor Higgins, by something so simple as teaching phonetics, brought out the best in who Eliza could be. He, with the help of Colonel Pickering and Mrs. Pierce, of course, washed the soot off her clothes, plopped her in a tub


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(although that was entirely Mrs. Pierce‟s doing), trained her to speak in a more elegant tone, and yes, even fool society bigwigs into believing she was a Hungarian duchess. True, it was all for personal pride that Higgins first conducted this experiment; he was self promoting and egotistical until the end of both said novel and book. However, he was still used. He was the tool that cracked off Eliza‟s rough shell, the one everyone else saw, and uncovered the diamond inside. It was always there; it just took someone else to unlock Eliza‟s potential. It isn‟t any different in real life than it is in the literary world. Everyone at some point can look back in time and see someone who

was their “Henry Higgins.” Or maybe, you can see that you are being a “Henry Higgins” to someone else. It is a great feeling, although one that demands humility —something the Professor did not possess. Being responsible for someone, or in gratitude to someone, is a rewarding experience as long as we don‟t start demanding that others become “like us.” Rex Harrison is the perfect embodiment of George Bernard Shaw‟s character. His portrayal of characters always seems to get under this columnist‟s skin, so it only fits that he play Professor Henry Higgins. Truly, the songs created in Alan Jay Lerner are ones you can picture his original character singing.

However, the best casting choice in the entire film is that of Audrey Hepburn. You cannot pick a classier woman to play the cockney toned flower girl turned debutante than Audrey. From the scenes at the Epsom horse races to the ball she attends, her Eliza demands your attention. Her transformation is believable; you cannot help but love her character. You also have to smile when she tells Professor Higgins how annoyed she is at how he takes her for granted. The ending of the story is where the book and movie differ. In Pygmalion, Eliza goes on to marry Freddy Unsford Hill (yes, the lovesick guy who sings “On the Street Where You Live”—the one she met via

Mrs. Higgins). However, because Eliza and Freddy are not able to completely support themselves, Professor Higgin‟s generosity is frequently called upon. In My Fair Lady, Eliza returns to Professor Higgins, content to put up with his behavior because he is used to her. It is quite obvious that Eliza always knew she owed Higgins a debt of gratitude. He lifted her out of the mud; he got her on a better path. Christ has done the same thing for all of us. He lifted us up and brought us into the paths of those who will shape us into something more than who we were. It takes a Higgins to grow into a better, more well rounded individual—Eliza Doolittle can attest to that. ♥


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veryone always seems to expect growing up with sisters to be like Little Women, all sweet games and playing in the attic.

I do believe Mama was hoping it would be like that as she read it to us several times as girls. Subtlety is not one of her strong points. Louisa May Alcott evidently didn‟t have “Tess” for a sister. Growing up it was always “Tess is so beautiful.” “Tess is such an excellent big sister to „Belle‟!” “Tess‟s eyebrows are so perfectly shaped!” Even as a girl I felt like screaming when Mama and Papa would go on and on about her. They never did, and still don‟t, see her vicious evil tendencies. She was a little bitch even as a child, stealing my favorite dolls and giving them to Belle and then telling Nanny it was because I wasn‟t sharing just to spite me. I learned then to never say anything then, no one ever believed me over Tess. Tess was the perfect little girl, poised and beautiful, Belle, my younger sister, was the sweet, intelligent one who would say clever things and be petted and spoiled. They were always so close, the two of them, sharing secrets and special tête-à-têtes together. While

Belle never treated me poorly, I knew I was never welcome in their little group; that much was clear. Me, well, I was the invisible, constantly overlooked child; the only thing I‟ve ever been complimented on was my “helpfulness.” I don‟t count. No one has ever called me lovely. I highly doubt any man is going to notice much less marry an invisible woman who, at best, can be called “helpful” As Tess so cruelly puts it, I am “fishing with no bait.” I never said anything when she was engaged to the man I‟d loved since I was a girl. I couldn‟t! It was an arranged marriage. What wounds the most was that she didn‟t care for him at all; she didn‟t even mourn him as a fiancée when he died because she hates wearing black. While I, who would have taken widow‟s weeds for him, was left to pour out my hidden grief in private, like I‟ve always done. Since then I‟ve tried twice to move on and find someone to love me. It has failed miserably, thanks to Tess. Yesterday was the proverbial straw that broke the camel‟s back.

I‟ve been being courted by a pleasant and amiable man. “Sir Tony” is quite a bit older than I am but when I‟m with him I don‟t feel invisible. I believe he cares for me, and most importantly he would give me a life away from Tess. He

was going to ask for my hand but Tess sabotaged it, and now I‟ll never see him again. Not because she wants him for herself, goodness no, she calls him an “Old Booby.” Several months ago I got disgusted with her getting away with


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everything. So in a moment of malevolence I exposed her for who she really is, an action I believe also affected her relationship with her prospective fiancée, who is also never to be seen again. I suppose revenge is not as sweet as the ominous “they” make it out to be. So, as of now I am fated to spend the rest of my lonely, miserable existence attending family dinners, arranging the presents into pretty positions at various weddings and listening to my family simper over inconsequential things while blending in with the furniture. Will my turn ever come? Lady E.C.

in the same day. Especially when love is involved, things can get vicious, personal and low quickly. Unfortunately as women we don‟t have the luxury of a satisfying round of fisticuffs to settle our disagreements. I couldn‟t help but notice how the entirety of your letter revolves around Tess; she seems to be the pillar of your life as well as the bane of it. It‟s as if you‟re caught between envying and hating her. I‟m sure it‟s a seemingly impossible situation and difficult to resolve as it‟s so deeply rooted in your Dear Lady E. philosophy. My Let me get this straight: advice would be to as it stands now both you change your and your sister are single situation and and both of you played a philosophy as major role in assuring the much as you can. I other one stayed that way. know your options No wonder everyone is might be limited miserable and taking out but I firmly believe their feelings on others. This there‟s always a whole cycle of childhood choice, and that grievances and parental starts with your favoritism has gotten attitude and completely out of hand. general outlook on I don‟t mean to be harsh but life. By that I don‟t mean the two of you brought this marry the first man who on yourselves. I really do pays attention to you. While feel very sympathetic I‟m sure Sir Tony was quite towards you; sisters can be nice, pardon me if I say that one of life‟s greatest trials. you deserve someone who It‟s both lovely and you truly love, not someone wonderful and you‟re each who is “pleasant.” Don‟t give other‟s best friends or all cat up yet on a life with fights, hurtful remarks, and someone who shares your subtle back stabbing, often youth and passion.

Don‟t put yourself in a box by labeling yourself this or that; you‟re what, all of twenty years of age? You‟ve just begun your life; there‟s a world of possibility. You won‟t always be invisible unless you make yourself so. Just because you‟re not as classically beautiful as your sisters doesn‟t mean you‟re

aren‟t everything! You write a fine clear hand, my dear, and have a lyrical way of expressing your thoughts, as well as a clever mind, an observant eye, and great knowledge of literature. Have you ever considered taking up the pen? You don‟t have to be stuck in a life of choosing clothes, paying calls, and doing charity work while husband hunting. I‟m not suggesting you adopt radical opinions, or make any rash decisions, but you don‟t have to be clever or outwardly beautiful to be important and valued. It you stop trying to be either of those, and try to be your own lovely self, others will notice. A keen eye and compassionate heart are undervalued qualities. Don‟t put yourself down. Yes, you made mistakes, and now feel the consequences of them, so learn from them and move on. Your worth isn‟t in your looks, men‟s affection, or the opinions of others, especially Tess‟s. not lovely in your own way. They don‟t define you, In fact, if you think about it, you define you. Don‟t worry, her beauty and vanity seems your turn will come. to have caused quite a few of Sincerely, Lady Lydia Tess‟s problems. Don‟t try to be her or measure yourself P.S. Perhaps you could against her, or live up to the learn to drive? That would expectations of your parents be an adventure, and you and family. Don‟t allow never know when it could bitterness to dim the beauty prove useful. ♥ in your heart. Perfect brows


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have always enjoyed the story of Peter Pan, the boy who never grows up.


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He has always intrigued me, an ageless boy who takes three children from our world into his. But as I learned the story behind the author, J. M. Barrie, I saw that Peter for all his strengths and independence is also a tragic figure, one who will always be lost, even more so than the Lost Boys he claims responsibility for. When Barrie was a young boy he lost his brother, David. This was particularly hard on his mother since David was her favorite. His death affected her so greatly that Barrie dressed in his dead brother‟s clothes in order to get his mother to notice him, and even that was not enough. Some have speculated that Barrie‟s small stature was due in part to wanting to be the son his mother lost. As an adult he befriended the Davies family and became especially close to the five boys. After the death of their father, then their mother, Barrie became even closer by becoming a guardian to the children. In the story of Peter Pan, we can see Barrie‟s life echoed. As a baby, Peter fell from his pram and ran away. He enjoyed his freedom but when he tried

to return home, he found the window barred and another baby in his place. After David died, Barrie felt he had lost his mother‟s love. Just as Wendy became a surrogate mother to the lost boys, Barrie become a much-needed surrogate to the Davies boys. The biggest difference between Barrie and Peter is that Barrie grew up. As an adult, he was able to love and care for the boys, and his relationship with his mother grew better over time. Peter always thought of mothers and growing up with disdain, but Barrie knew we must all grow up… and also that we all need our mothers. As an adult, how happy he must have been to care for those five boys, boys like him who had lost someone dear and needed to forget their loss in a story. And what a story! The story of a boy whose life is filled with

adventure, a boy who can fly and is friends with mermaids and fairies, a boy who fights pirates every day. Peter had no rules, no one to answer to, but was in charge of his own life. Yet in searching deeper,

you can see that beneath Peter‟s bold exterior is someone fragile. He feared Tink dying, couldn‟t stand the idea of the Lost Boys having different or better memories of their mothers,

and he wanted nothing to do with growing older. And that is the greatest difference between J. M. Barrie and Peter Pan. Peter will always be a reckless child, never changing. But in contrast, Barrie grew up, and his life counted. Barrie wrote dozens of stories and plays in his lifetime but none is as beloved or well remembered as Peter Pan. The story has lived on in many different forms: Broadway productions, Disney movies, tales of Peter grown up, even other authors trying to fill in the missing pieces to Peter‟s life. In this way, as well, Barrie differs from Peter. He grew up and lived a full life. And though he died an aged man, he will never truly die. He lives on through the story of Peter Pan. Almost a century after his death, Barrie is still here, in no danger of dying. He has, in a sense, become to many of us… Peter Pan. ♥


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hundred years ago large hats were fashionable and women wore them on a daily basis, cars were a novelty, and so was household running water and electricity.

Then, wealthy people changed multiple times a day, the rich and the poor were strictly segregated, and the idea of a wealthy woman and a poor man getting together was utterly incomprehensible. One hundred years ago the rich and powerful were breaking new ground with buildings taller than any seen before, conquering the sky with improved flying machines, and mastering the seas with swift and sturdy ships. In this era of supersized egos and perceived superiority the ship RMS Titanic sailed, her builders confident that their creation was “unsinkable.” And on this infamous ship screenwriter and director James Cameron placed two characters from opposite social spectrums, through which to tell an epic story of romance and tragedy. For those unfamiliar with this film, the story tracks the Titanic during its maiden voyage and sinking through the story of two star-crossed lovers, Jack Dawson and Rose Dewitt Bukater. The romance between poor artist Jack and wealthy socialite

Rose is the heart of the movie, providing a way for the audience to experience the emotional journey of the Titanic tragedy. Along the way the two protagonists meet prominent historical figures and lead the audience through the many levels of the ship, from the boiler room to the bow. This journey allows the audience to experience the voyage of the Titanic from different angles and to marvel at her grandeur, paving the way for a heart-wrenching catastrophe when the ship strikes ice and sinks. Titanic was known for it‟s magnificence and the talented filmmakers put every effort into recreating history down to the last detail. After months of painstaking craftsmanship on all fronts the results were able to showcase the opulence of the wealthy and the conservatism of poor society. By juxtaposing characters from opposite ends of the social sphere and recreating that world in perfect detail the audience is given a thorough tour of this small glimpse into Edwardian life. This is given

realism through the many historical figures that are represented in the movie: John Jacob Astor and his wife Madeline, Captain Edward Smith, Bruce Ismay, Thomas Andrews, Margaret Brown, and Benjamin Guggenheim, to name a few. These historical figures (and many more) are famous for their actions during the sinking. Some were heroes and some were cowards, but all shared the same tragic experience. Tragedies tend to reveal people‟s true characters, bringing out both the best and worst in

people. The best was brought out in people like Captain Smith and Margaret Brown (or “Molly” as history has come to know her), for they kept their cool in the face of disaster and helped give many of Titanic‟s passengers a chance at survival by keeping order, giving instructions, and taking command for those too frightened to make a move. People like John Jacob Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim are known for their bravery during the disaster and how they put others before themselves,


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facing death with dignity and poise. The worst was brought out in people like Bruce Ismay, the President of the White Star Line. He became the most famous of Titanic‟s cowards for stowing away on a lifeboat knowing that someone else would die in his place. However, some of the reenactments of the film, particularly those of factual historical people like Captain Smith and First Officer Murdoch, aren‟t completely historically accurate. It shows the Captain facing his own demise with resignation, but his blank-faced refusal to help a desperate woman and hopeless end doesn‟t hold up with his previous heroism. Most prominently cited as inaccurate is the portrayal of Officer Murdoch‟s death. He is shown to temporarily accept a bribe, shoot a passenger

and then commit suicide, choosing to end his life out of guilt and fear. While there are testimonies that an officer did shoot himself during the sinking, the historical evidence holds in favor that it was most likely not Officer Murdoch who did so. Most of the surviving passengers of the Titanic remembered Captain Smith as an “honorable man” and Officer Murdoch as “calm and courageous,” so the defamation of certain crew members was done for dramatic effect, and not as a truly honest reenactment. Another point of contention regarding the history portrayed in this movie is that of modernism. Modern gestures, language and values creep into the storyline and muddy it. The story of Jack and Rose is a portrayal of ill-fated love, a thrilling tale when set against the backdrop of the

Titanic‟s sinking. It is true that social barriers were strictly enforced and that wealthy “good girls” like Rose were discouraged from pursuing relationships with the lower classes. It is also true that people fought against the constraints of the time, for not everyone was traditional or conservative in their values. However, the sexual freedom, rebellion and indiscretion that the protagonists exhibit are more reflective of modern mores than the Edwardian era. Perhaps by inserting a contemporary romance in a period drama Cameron hoped a modern audience would connect with it better, but most viewers (especially those who love history and classic romances) don‟t need immorality to “connect” with a film. This film is not a perfect reflection of factual history

but can a film ever truly be one? Movies are merely an interpretation, a collective viewpoint on a person, place or event. This holds true for Titanic because it is a movie inspired by true events, not simply a documentation of them. Historical inaccuracies are to be expected when someone (in this case a director and screenwriter) twists the facts to meet desired ends. The result is a visual masterpiece, a portrayal of a narrow snippet of time in which a major life-altering event occurred. The thrilling story draws you in and makes you want to learn more about the actual history. So if apprehensiveness overtakes you when it comes to this film, simply take it with a grain of salt and enjoy reliving the visual splendor of an era long gone. ♥


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here are several kinds of female characters in books and movies, perhaps more reflective of real women than we would like to admit.


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Some fall into the damsels in distress category, women ever in need of rescue. There are also “tomboys” who shy away from womanly pursuits such as the “Jo‟s” from Little Women, and the women who dress as men to go on adventures. Then there are women who are (sometimes anachronously) against the historical tide. In Downton Abbey, the plucky Lady Sybil Crawley falls into the latter category. Masterpiece Theatre‟s well-beloved British series takes place just after the sinking of the Titanic, at an estate in England. It follows the wealthy Crawley family, as well as their servants, neighbors, and friends. Sybil is the youngest of the three sisters and finds her footing as a spirited activist. Some might say Downton Abbey took a risk in featuring Sybil, as so often the roles of women concerned with women‟s rights and activism are riddled with clichés. A forward-thinking woman such as Sybil was also often the exception rather than the rule among others with aristocratic upbringing. Yet, the risk seems to have paid off. Sybil has a cheerful disposition and interdependent, look-outfor-others streak unlike many traditional “civilminded woman”-archetype characters. As a result, we see not yet another go-getter defined by her causes, but a real woman defined by a moral versus a political

center. Her efforts toward the causes close to her heart are a natural outflow of that focus. Sybil is big-hearted and we believe she really tries to do the right thing because she believes it is right, and not out of a desire to “be a rebel” like many female characters that have gone before her in film history. Though at times, her actions may be viewed as rebellious by her family nonetheless. Although not without her vices, such as impulsivity in keeping with her passionate personality, Sybil is utterly relatable because she is so down-to-earth. Unlike some of her family members, she is less a part of the game of early twentieth century life, which concerns itself with issues such as social status and the power and wealth synonymous with it. Instead, Sybil is at times dismissive of this frivolity, more happy to pass her time being useful. This great sense of purpose drives Sybil to seek an education, practice as a nurse during wartime, and to sneak out to rallies on women‟s rights.

Although her intentions may not be to be rebellious for the sake of being different, Sybil is not afraid to uphold her beliefs when challenged, if she judges it worthwhile. For example, when her father is angered by her affection toward the family chauffeur, she accepts that he disagrees with her decision but does not back

contrast to the elegant and often snobbish setting. Her presence reminds viewers that although estates such as the fictional Downton had a real beauty, such as through traditionalism and luxury, the privileged lifestyles they provided were imperfect at best. Sybil‟s unconventional viewpoints may not be entirely in keeping with her upbringing but her outspokenness and sensitivity reveal the more human aspects of Downton, and the shifting ideals of the era away from classbased social standing toward values that formed the basis for causes such as women‟s suffrage. One gets the sense that Sybil could easily fit in with twentieth century life. She would certainly find sufficient causes in need of her commitment, and perhaps her empathetic soul would lead her somewhere abroad, such as to India advocating against women‟s sex trafficking or in the down from her claim that a Peace Corps helping chauffeur has equal human children in need. dignity to love as a man of Regardless, we can easily greater monetary means. imagine Sybil making a Some might argue that difference because she her optimistic temperament allows her actions to be is at odds with elitism found guided by a commitment to in Downton Abbey, but it her beliefs: a quality that is could also be said that Sybil needed in every generation, provides a much-needed including our own. ♥


In this issue we honor some of literatureâ€&#x;s memorable women. Make sure your favorite heroine isnâ€&#x;t left out by contributing! There are 2 writing spots left! E-mail us today at: femnista@charitysplace.com


Femnista March April 2012